To preview the matchup, the Daily Trojan asked a few questions to Tyler Waldrep, the sports editor at The Crimson White.
Daily Trojan: What would USC have to do to pull off the upset?
Tyler Waldrep: The Trojans need to do what few teams have done in recent years and successfully run the football against Alabama’s front seven. Then, on defense, USC needs to put pressure on both of Alabama’s quarterbacks. Redshirt freshman Blake Barnett could be especially prone to turn the ball over if the Trojan pass rush gets home.
DT: What is Alabama’s game plan to slow down what is potentially a very high-scoring USC offense?
T.W.: I think Alabama’s game plan will likely involve taking away the run and forcing quarterback Max Browne to beat them with his arm. Alabama’s got a lot of experience and talent in the secondary, so Browne will need to be precise with where he places the football, but something tells me Alabama’s pass rushers don’t plan on giving him much time to evaluate his options.
DT: Who do you think Alabama will start at quarterback? What do each of the options bring to the table?
T.W.: On Monday, [Alabama head coach Nick] Saban announced only two quarterbacks remained in contention to start this weekend, Barnett and Cooper Bateman. I expect Bateman will get the start since he is the only quarterback on the roster who has taken any snaps in a game before, but Barnett could be the more intriguing option on Saturday. He’s more athletic than Bateman and is capable of hurting the defense with either his arm or his legs; however, he doesn’t always make the right decision when it comes to protecting the football and keeping the offense moving in the right direction.
DT: As an SEC school, what is your perception of USC and the Pac-12 as a whole?
T.W.: My personal opinion of USC is that it’s one of the few programs in the country that has the history, tradition and resources to contend for a national title almost — if not every — year. As for the Pac-12, I don’t think it gets a team in the playoff this season, but I do think it more often than not produces one of the top four teams in all of college football.
DT: [Former USC football coach] Lane Kiffin has an infamous past at USC. How has he fared as offensive coordinator at Alabama?
T.W.: Some of the people in Tuscaloosa doubted Lane Kiffin at first, but it didn’t take long for him to win over his critics in the Alabama fan base. In two seasons he’s taken a pair of quarterbacks with relatively little experience (Blake Sims and Jake Coker) and turned them each into 3,000 yard passers that finished with a combined total of 55 passing touchdowns.